Achiote Oil

Achiote oil is a handy ingredient to have on hand. This is especially true if you cook Latin American and Mexican cuisines. The oil is made from beautiful red annato seeds, which are about the same size as cardamom seeds. Why this oil is not called annato oil, I’ll never know. For some reason the seeds have their own name, and the oil, a different one.

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An 8 or 12 ounce jar of achiote oil is easy to prepare, and the oil will keep in the fridge for quite a while.

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To make the oil, crush the annato seeds slightly – I do this in my wonderful little Magic Bullet, but it could even be done with a knife. Be careful, though. The yellow-orange of these seeds will stain your fingers and everything else.

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The suggested ratio for the oil is 1/4 cup of annato seeds to 1/2 cup of vegetable or grapeseed oil. In the end you get a lovely colored oil, along with it the smoky annato flavor.

Bring the oil with the seeds in it to a light boil, then turn off the heat. Let the oil become infused with the flavor and color of the annato seeds, until the oil is cool enough to handle.

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Using a fine sieve, strain the crushed seeds from the oil. Store the oil in the refrigerator.

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This oil can be used in absolutely any dish, either as part of the oil for sautéeing aromatics, or as a little drizzle on top of a finished dish like a soup or stew.

Try it in a rice or risotto dish, in any stew, or rub it over a pork loin! Here I’ve used it in a cornbread.

note: Do not “cook” the annato seeds in the oil. Simply heat the oil to a light boil and then remove from the heat. If you prefer, just warm the oil, and then let it sit overnight or for a few hours. Once I accidentally boiled the annato seeds, and the oil came out very bitter and nasty. Don’t do that!

By Published On: January 28th, 201320 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

20 Comments

  1. MonkeyBreadandSweetPea January 28, 2013 at 11:55 AM - Reply

    I made this years ago in culinary school for a dish I was creating. I kind of forgot about it! Thanks for sharing & reminding me!!

  2. yummychunklet January 28, 2013 at 4:03 PM - Reply

    I’ve never heard of this oil. Sounds great!

  3. Our Growing Paynes January 28, 2013 at 4:17 PM - Reply

    Is it spicy? I’ve never heard of this before.

    • chef mimi January 28, 2013 at 4:32 PM - Reply

      No, it’s not hot spicy – it’s more smoky. I’m going to go taste it and then tell you, because I never taste it as is.

      • Our Growing Paynes January 28, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        Interesting. I’ll have to look for this seed.

      • chef mimi January 29, 2013 at 10:11 AM

        Ok. I tasted the oil. It tastes earthy, a little smoky, and honestly, it tastes like seeds. I don’t know why the stuff is so good, but it’s fun to use. The color is phenomenal, so maybe we’ve all just been fooling ourselves that it tastes good, when really it’s the color we love!!! Of course, it’s not meant to be eaten as is!

      • Our Growing Paynes January 29, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Isn’t it funny how applying heat changes things? Thank you for tasting them and letting me know. :)

  4. camparigirl January 28, 2013 at 6:12 PM - Reply

    I discovered achiote a million years ago while travelling through Yucatan and I have been using it ever since. Yet, I never thought of making oil!

    • chef mimi January 29, 2013 at 10:09 AM - Reply

      So, do you make a paste from the seeds?

  5. Amanda Embry January 29, 2013 at 9:15 PM - Reply

    I believe (although I could be wrong) that achiote may be the Spanish word for the seeds, probably based off of an indigenous South American language, and annato is the English word.

    Fun fact: In Ecuador there is an indigenous tribe (the Tsachila) and the men use the annato seeds to make a paste and color their hair bright red.

    • chef mimi February 1, 2013 at 9:10 AM - Reply

      AAAAhhhhhhh, you are probably right about that. I did know that they used the annatto seeds, I think on their skin as well. I’m so fascinated by natural dyes.

  6. The Domestic Ingenue January 31, 2013 at 4:33 PM - Reply

    This is such a great idea! I don’t use achiote oil in my cooking, but I’m starting to prepare Mexican cuisine more and more. I’m wondering if this oil might be the magic flavoring that is missing from my cooking. Who knows, but its worth a shot! Thanks for posting and what a fun project. :)

    • chef mimi February 1, 2013 at 9:12 AM - Reply

      I don’t know if it’s magic flavoring, but you should definitely try it for fun!!!

  7. petit4chocolatier February 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM - Reply

    Interesting! I definitely need to look for this :)

  8. hungrycoqui February 1, 2014 at 5:39 PM - Reply

    I was looking around the web to see how different people use different proportions of seed to oil and I came across this post. Great explanation! And yes, “achiote” is the Spanish word for annato. Also, I find it interesting that you crush the seeds a little first. I bet that gets you even more flavor while using less seeds. Neat idea!

    • chef mimi February 1, 2014 at 5:40 PM - Reply

      Thank you! I think it probably does work a little better that way! I love annato!!!

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